Any digital marketer worth her salt will tell you that if you want your brand to succeed in today’s market, you have to be creating content. Blog posts, e-books, whitepapers, infographics, podcasts… when it comes to content marketing, the options are many.
The point of creating all this content, of course, is to get it in the hands—or on the screens—of potential buyers, who will be much more likely to become your customers if you give them something great to read.
So if that’s what you’re trying to do, then what’s the whole idea behind gated content? Why would you ever erect a barrier between your potential customer and something they’re trying to access? After all, marketing is generally about removing barriers to purchase, isn’t it?
Yes, indeed, it is. And while there are some sparing uses for gated content, it’s no longer the best practice it once was. In the past, putting up a gate that consumers had to pass through to get to your content could work in your favor. The trick was knowing what content should be gated and what kind of gate you should use.
But in today’s digital landscape, gated content isn’t terribly useful. In fact, it should be used sparingly, especially for B2Bs, and only for super high-value assets.
What is gated content?
What does “gated content” mean, anyway?
Gated content refers to digital assets or information that is only accessible after a user provides some form of contact information, such as an email address or phone number. In B2B, gated content is often used as a means of collecting lead information for B2B marketing and sales purposes. This information can then be used for lead nurturing, lead generation, and other marketing initiatives.
But when it comes to content, the term “gate” can mean a couple of things.
It can mean a paywall so that people who want to view your content, or particular pieces of your content, have to pay for access.
This is a popular model among journalistic organizations. The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and many other newspapers and magazines offer a certain number of free articles per reader per month and then require you to become a paid subscriber to access any more than that.
Another option is to leave your content free to consume but require readers to fill out a form before they can access it. A form like this typically captures contact information and might include a line asking how you found the company. Companies of all kinds do this, although it’s more popular among B2Bs than B2Cs.
That, in a nutshell, is what gated content means.
To gate or not to gate: Pros and cons of gated content
While gated content has been considered a mainstay of B2B content marketing strategies, it’s worth debating its viability, especially since most content creators are trending towards un-gating their work.
Pros of gated content
- Gated content lets you capture more email addresses, increasing your number of leads. By offering high-quality, exclusive content only accessible to those who provide their information, companies can attract and engage with those that care enough to provide contact info—meaning they are more likely to be qualified leads who will convert.
- Capturing readers’ email addresses gives you more opportunities to give them what they want. You can send them strategic pieces of content based on the content they’ve already accessed on your site.
- You can better forecast the number of leads you’ll get per month. By requiring users to provide information in exchange for access to content, companies can ensure that only those who are truly interested in their products or services will receive marketing communications. This can lead to more relevant and effective marketing initiatives and increased ROI.
Cons of gated content
- It can reduce the number of people who read your content. Requiring users to provide information in exchange for access to content can be seen as intrusive and off-putting, potentially leading to increased bounce rates and decreased engagement with the content. A certain percentage of people will simply leave your site when they see the email form pop up.
- Gated content has little to no SEO value because gated content isn’t accessible to search engine bots. That means that the bots aren’t reading it, and therefore they aren’t indexing it in Google, so your content has decreased visibility.
- Gated content can also limit the ability of users to share the content with others, potentially leading to decreased social and dark social sharing.
- While gating content may, in theory, give you more qualified leads, it can also be a turn-off to qualified leads who will look to competitors’ sites to get the information they need.
- For every piece you gate, you are sacrificing the visibility and brand awareness that piece may get you, and oftentimes, it isn’t worth the sacrifice.
So what’s a content marketer to do?
Instead of asking whether or not you should gate your content, you should be asking when you should gate your content. To determine this, you need to look at:
- Your business’s goals
- Your goals for each piece of content
Gating can work to attract more, higher-quality leads for one sort of content, while it can drive away leads when it’s used on another.
The Future of Gated Content for B2B Companies
The use of gated content is no longer considered a best practice, as it has become increasingly viewed as intrusive and off-putting to users. The rise of inbound marketing and the shift towards a more customer-centric approach to marketing has led many companies to prioritize an un-gated approach to content creation and distribution.
Companies are now focusing on creating and distributing high-quality, valuable content that is freely available to all users, regardless of whether they provide their contact information. Despite the shift towards un-gated content, there are still instances where gating can be appropriate.
- For super-high-value assets, such as e-books or whitepapers, gating may still be a useful tool for lead generation.
- For assets that go straight to prospects’ inboxes—like a newsletter—you, of course, need to gather email addresses.
In general, things like blog posts, infographics, and slideshares are best left ungated—after all, these are things you create in order to get more eyes on your content, improve your B2B SEO, and increase your brand awareness. Gating these assets can make your business seem like it’s only out to chase leads, and that’s only going to drive potential customers away.
Reports, white papers, e-books, and other things that require lots of time and effort to create are another story. Very few people are going to sit through an entire webinar purely on a whim, so if they’ve found it, they’re more likely willing to offer up their email address for access.
B2B companies can also offer alternatives to gated content, such as un-gated versions of the content that are freely available to all users or gated content that requires only minimal contact information. This can help companies balance the benefits of gated content with the drawbacks of decreased user experience and accessibility.
One great way to use your gated and ungated content to complement each other is to offer pieces of ungated content that lead readers to gated content.
For example, if you’ve just completed an extensive report on the state of your industry, you could write a blog post that gives highlights from the report and includes a call-to-action for readers to download the full report. The full report would be gated; the blog post, of course, would not.
Gated content can still play a role in your strategy, but if it does, it should be used sparingly. Companies should continuously evaluate and adapt their use of gated content as the market and customer preferences evolve. By staying up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices, companies can ensure that they are using gated content in the most effective and appropriate manner.
Need help figuring out your gated content strategy? Reach out.